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His Brother's Keeper

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You had seen Mike take a hit before, both on the job and off it. You’ve watched him in the ring a million times, admired the gracefulness of his movements when he boxes. There’s an art form to his motions, the way he dances and parries, the way his broad body steels itself when he sees the swing coming. He knows how to take a punch and when to give it.

However nothing could have prepared him for the blow that you had just delivered.

Standing here on the outside of the ring, your eyes fixated on his vivid green ones as he sags against platform, the backs of his thighs coming to rest upon the edge as he squints at you through his lank dark hair, you feel absolutely terrible.

When he’d first laid eyes on you after finishing up the sparring match, he had smiled. He had been happy to see you here, confused because he knew you were on call with Narcotics that night but happy none the less.  He’d stripped off the red boxing gloves and tossed them on the bench you were lingering by. It was when he saw the expression on your face that something wasn’t right and that smile, it had dyed on his lips.

“You’re sure?” he asks you again, using the back of his wrist to wipe the hair out of his eyes so that he can look at you properly.

“Yes.” You respond, jamming your hands into the pockets of your navy blue blazer. “It’s definitely Matt.”

You see his shoulders sag as if the strength has been sapped right out of him, his muscular arms cross over his chest as he tilts his head towards the ceiling, praying for strength. You get it, you really do. You and Mike have been living together for over a year now, dating for two. By now you know that his younger brother Matt is his kryptonite, he always has been and you suspect he always will be. You expect that, acknowledged it was a part of being with Mike.

“I thought he was still in rehab.” Mike says finally, shaking his head from side to side as if trying to make sense of it all. “He should still be in rehab.”

You know that, it was Mike who had paid for it once again. You hated that he had to do it, hated that he put his hard earned money aside ‘just in case’. Somewhere along the line you had both come to accept that it was really for ‘next time’. You had started adding more than your share to the joint account. When you told Mike you wanted to spend the rest of your life with him you meant it, even if it included bailing Matt out of trouble and you hated the idea of Mike getting into debt because of his brother. It had happened before but you would make sure it never happen again.

“My dad?” he questioned, his devoid of all emotion as he spoke.

You recognized this version of Mike, you’ve seen it far too many times. The cop in him was stepping forward, pushing all those bubbling emotions back down under the surface. Right now was about damage control, about figuring out what to do with Matt.

“Narcotics let me take the lead with him, they didn’t want to be involved after he started throwing your name around.”  you tell him honestly. “He’s in holding for now, winding down. He had a crack pipe on him so I’m gonna guess that’s what he was on…”

You hesitate as Mike’s hand suddenly reaches out and smooths your loose hair back behind your ear to that he can see the entirety of your features. His fingertips ghost over the fresh bruising that’s beginning to mar your smooth skin. His mouth twists into a grimace, his jaw tightening as he reviews the darkening pattern on your flesh, the one that you tried to hide from him.

“Did he do that?” his voice was rough as he spoke, his green eyes livid as he draws back, his analytical gaze cataloging the rest of you.

“He was high, swinging wild…” you trailed off as his eyes darkened at your words. He can tell when you’re omitting the truth. He knows you’re trying to spare him from the worst parts of his brother. He doesn’t need to hear about the tirade of abuse you received both before and after Matt’s fist connected with your face. “…a lot of them get aggressive when they smoke it, it makes them paranoid.”

You can tell he wants to apologize but you’ve had this conversation before. What Matt does isn’t on Mike’s head, Mike often struggles coming to terms with that notion. You know how much he fears that one day you’ll get sick of the baggage that comes with loving him and decide to leave. You do everything in your power to convince him otherwise but Mike is a man of actions, not words. Too many women have said the same things to him over the years and each and everyone of them has left, forcing him to shoulder this burden alone.

You are not like them, he knows that. Yet the pattern is ingrained into him and all he sees is history repeating itself over and over again.

“I promised you it would be the last time.” he says finally, indecision in those dark Irish features of his.

You don’t want to be the source of this conflict, you would never make him choose between yourself and his brother. Loving someone was about taking the good with the bad, supporting them when they needed someone in their corner.

You reach out for him, your dainty hand coming to clasp his larger one, the boxing tape tickling along the lines of your palm as you hold on to it tightly.

"Whatever you choose, I’m with you.“